With the weather closing in and fall most definitely upon us, I decided to make one more effort at a long ride before the snow flies. I was due in Bingo at 10 in the morning to meet Jess, our Tour de Cure coordinator for a little presentation. She had a framed plaque for our Thoroughbred team to recognize that we came in third last year in fundraising. Pretty cool for the first time out and a pretty good excuse to ride in the cold. Not that I usually need an excuse...
Unexpectedly, my announced intention to leave the house at about 6 AM in order to have lots of time to make the 42 mile push to our office was met with unprecedented resistance from the management. I knew it would still be dark and likely be extremely chilly but I had lights hooked up on the 2.1 and had multiple layers of clothes all picked out to get me through until sunup. Nothing like thinking ahead. The weather forecast was for sunny and low 50's by midday so the return trip promised to be a breeze. A pre-dawn departure was my plan and all I lacked was fresh batteries for the headlight. Chris was watching all this preparation without much comment until she realized I'd be riding about 2 hours out of the gate in full dark. For the first time in our married life, I actually saw her stamp her foot on the rug, cross her arms and flat out say no. She's pretty much accustomed to my more common antics but I guess this one crossed the line in the sand. I think the foot-stomp was the killer indication that there would be a few alterations to my itinerary. I promised I wouldn't ride in the dark.
Instead, I hooked the rack on the van and loaded up the bike in the morning and took off on a slightly different angle. I'd drop the van at the shop (which happens to be in the direction I was going anyway) for an oil change, get geared up and ride the 20 or so remaining miles to the yard. By then, it would be daylight (sort of) so I could get around the prohibition on darkness and yet still get in some miles. So far...so good.
The guy at the counter looked at me like he was seeing an idiot for the first time when I told him I had to unload my bike before he could have the van. His customer-service face cracked a little but he handled it without calling me a moron to my face. I happened to glance at the thermometer on the overhead in the van as I was gathering up my stuff...27 degrees. That's pretty cool, even for me. Less than ideal but not unheard of in my biking escapades so a quick change into riding gear and I was on the road east in gray morning light. Gray being the key word because I soon realized that it was not only 27 degrees out there, but hanging around the valley was a pretty thick coating of fog.
Fog is a way of describing water floating around in the air and when the air is somewhat below freezing, said water tends to solidify on whatever thing it touches, things like me. My gloves, sweatshirt and glasses were soon decorated with a heavy layer of frost and the feeling went out of my hands. In changing my plan of attack, I guess I neglected the extra gloves I had layed out thinking it would be warmer with daylight. I missed them very much. I stopped every couple of miles to defrost and take a look to see if I still had fingers or if they'd snapped off in my gloves. Eventually though, the sun popped up and started the mercury in the positive direction. Luckily too, the mist burned off quickly and though it stayed cold, I could at least see where I was going. It was another hour before I could shift without actually looking at my fingers to see if they were doing what I wanted. Note to Shimano: You guys could make those shifter paddles a little bigger and it would be alright with me. They work a little hard when you have to use your whole frozen hand instead of the customary one finger.
Daylight brought out the commuters and so began the dodging of vehicles. I'm pretty used to that anymore so unless someone does something openly hostile, hustling around in traffic doesn't worry me much, I just jump right in and go. I try to get out of the way as much as I can but sometimes lack of maneuvering space means they either have to go around or hit me. Nobody's clipped me yet; close but no cigar so it I must be doing something right. Potholes and broken glass are as much a problem as anything but all obstacles were avoided and there was no horn-blowing or finger-waving this day. There's been other jaunts that included urban adventures but I'd never ridden in the city of Binghamton before. Turns out to be like all it's concrete cousins, it's just a matter of rolling with it and getting where your going without being run down. I got straight across the middle of town with only minor annoyances and rolled into the yard right on time. Cold but successful.
It was nice to see Jess again even though she had her own adventures getting down from Syaracuse. She's good people and it'll be a blast working with her on the 2011 Tour. We had a good chat before Mark and I took off for a short ride on a local rail-trail. A few miles with the Big Galoot and it was back on the road west to pick up the van and call it a day. The sun was bright and if not warm, at least tolerable and the wind was at my back. With any luck, there'll be a few more of these before I have to rely solely on the trainer. I hate the thought of salt and snow but spring will be here eventually...